Magazine article The Spectator

Christopher Howse

Magazine article The Spectator

Christopher Howse

Article excerpt

Christopher Howse

I gingerly stuck my nose into Lord Acton by Roland Hill (Yale, L25), being suspicious of the bee in the historian's bonnet about power, which made him bend over so far backwards to be fair to the enemies of his own Church that he ended up accusing St Charles Borromeo and St Pius V of being assassins. Silly man.

Though Mr Hill implicitly assumes that Acton's outlook was right, his own burrowing into archives has been so thorough and the pickings so cleverly arranged that Acton as library builder, wronged husband, intrepid meddler in Vatican affairs, sweet-- toothed Cambridge don and simple worshipper grows in depth in a narrative that has the tension of a novel. Among many oddities perhaps the weirdest is that Acton's grandfather married at the age of 64 his own 14-year-old niece, and Emma Hamilton signed the marriage certificate. …

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